Responsible Conduct Committee
The iGEM Responsible Conduct Committee is an external panel of experts who deal with all issues related to conduct in the competition. Our RCC members collectively have over 20 years of experience in the iGEM competition and are well versed in conduct and behavior related issues.
The role of the Responsible Conduct Committee is to ensure a high standard of conduct on the part of all iGEM participants and to address issues of inappropriate behavior in iGEM. The committee is led by Director of Judging, Peter Carr.
Members of the iGEM Community, including iGEMers, judges and other members of our community, are expected to uphold the values of iGEM:
- Good sportsmanship
What kinds of inappropriate behavior are we referring to, and what kinds of consequences?
The Responsible Conduct Committee (RCC) is tasked with making sure that iGEMers, judges and members of our community are upholding the highest values of iGEM. Below, you'll find some examples of situations that the RCC would be tasked with investigating. Please note that these are purely hypothetical situations that have no bearing on past events in iGEM.
Example 1: Biased Judging
A judge that has a conflict of interest (such as also advising an iGEM team) tries to use their position as judge to convince other judges their team deserves an award. (iGEM judging policy clearly forbids this.) If this happens once, and seems to be an honest mistake, that judge is simply instructed by other judges, and the RCC does not get called into action. If a judge repeatedly and deliberately continues to violate the conflict of interest policy, the RCC can be asked to make a decision. In an extreme case, that judge could be barred from future iGEM judging and a letter sent to his or her organization explaining why this decision was made.
Example 2: Dishonest Attribution
A team takes credit for the work of others. If it is simply a matter of poor attribution (for example, the team forgets to include literature references on their wiki) this is a simple judging issue and not a matter for the RCC. The team will simply get a poor score from the judges on attribution. But if a team takes the results of another team or research group and seeks to pass that work off as their own, it is a more serious matter, and the RCC could be asked to make a decision. This should not be confused with two teams that simply happen to be working on similar projects. Possible consequences could include being disqualified from receiving awards (if before the Jamboree) or even taking away an award (if a decision can only be made after the Jamboree). iGEM takes honesty and attribution very seriously.
Example 3: Harrassment
Some members of a team are unhappy with the judging results and decide to take that frustration out on the judges. They send e-mails to the judges insulting and threatening them. [NOTE: this has never happened] This would definitely be a matter for the RCC. Consequences could include a team being stripped of awards and individuals not allowed any future involvement in iGEM. While this action has not been taken in iGEM, an institution could be banned from participating in future competitions. In the most extreme cases, matters would be referred to the appropriate legal authorities.
Example 4: Stereotyping and Over-Promising
A team’s promotional video includes scenes where they pretend to experience a diabetic attack. A reviewer flags the exaggerated, almost-comical way the team acted out the diabetes symptoms, and a scene which shows someone falling into a coma, while a voiceover announces that this never could have happened if they’d used the team’s engineered microbiome solution. The RCC reaches out to make sure that the team intended for the video to be respectful, and has engaged responsibly with any diabetic people contacted during their project. As long as the discussion does not reveal other issues, the only change would be the addition of a content warning to the beginning of the video.
Example 5: Tasting Prototypes
A team produces biodegradable food colouring from engineered bacteria. They extract the dye, then make sure that it tastes okay by spreading it on some toast and having a bite. If the toast was eaten in the lab, this is a Lab Safety issue, and if the dye was brought outside the lab without permission from the Safety and Security Committee, this violates the Do Not Release policy. Regardless, the fact that someone took a bite is a straightforward violation of the No Human Experimentation policy. Consequences for violating these Safety policies would be ultimately determined by the Safety and Security Committee, who would likely recommend full or partial disqualification of the project. The RCC might also get involved, as such violations also raise questions about whether the team is upholding iGEM’s values.
- Committee Chair: Peter Carr
- Committee HQ Liaison: Traci Haddock-Angelli
- Committee HQ Liaison: Piers Millet
Voting Committee Members:
- Chris French
- Genya Dana
- Karmella Haynes
- King Chow
- Roman Jerala
Emeritus Committee Members:
- Martha Eborall
- Terry Johnson
Contacting the RCC Committee
If you suspect someone involved in iGEM is in breach of the values of iGEM and behaving in a manner not in line with the high standards of iGEM, you can contact the committee to open a case. However, you should only contact the committee in a case where breach of iGEM values and behavior are the core issues.
Responsible Conduct Committee
To contact the Responsible Conduct Committee, please email rcc [AT] igem [DOT] org.
For issues related to judging, please contact the Judging Program Committee (judging [AT] igem [DOT] org).
For lab safety or project safety issues, please contact the iGEM Safety Committee (safety [AT] igem [DOT] org).
If you are not sure which committee to contact, you may email Traci Haddock-Angelli, the iGEM Director of the Competition, directly for advice at traci [AT] igem [DOT] org or send an email to iGEM Headquarters at hq [AT] igem [DOT] org.